I’m currently preaching a series on the Sermon on the Mount called “Essentials.” In my opening comments from last Sunday, I shared a few essential things someone should know if they’re going to live in the south. Here’s my list:
You should know the difference between poison ivy & kudzu.
You should know the best place to go to get sweet tea (when you don’t want to make it yourself.)
You should know that real men eat grits.
You should know that if you’re going to put something in grits, it should either be your spoon or shrimp.
You should know that you don’t have a hissy fit. You pitch one.
You should know that if it snows, don’t put chains on your tires. Stay home.
You should know that Sunday is for church, but Saturday is for football.
“That’s depressing.” Have you ever said those two words? I’ve watched U.S. politics lately and found myself frustrated, angry, and discouraged. I may have even said that certain events or reactions have been “depressing.” As we move toward what seems like an all-out war between presidential candidates, I find myself shaking my head and dreading the next year. While events may get me down, am I really depressed?
Over seven percent of American adults will experience depression this year and fifteen percent will struggle with depression at some point in their lives. Over three million young people between the ages of twelve and seventeen have experienced at least one depressive episode this year. Sadly, I think we’ll see these numbers growing in the years to come. Why? Why are we struggling with depression as a culture?
Depression can come from a variety of places in a person’s life. It may result from chemical imbalances, physical or emotional trauma, or cultural challenges. Regardless of its source, depression is both promoted by and fed from feelings of hopelessness. While counselors can offer several solutions, one key solution is hope. I’m so grateful for gifted therapists and counselors, and I am most grateful for the God of all hope.
The great news I have is that we find hope in Jesus Christ. God spoke words of encouragement to a troubled nation in Jeremiah 29:11. These words also have great application to us today: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Do you struggle with depression today? As you reach out for hope, I encourage you to reach out to God. He will walk with you through your darkness to help you find the brightness of His presence.
Why is it that when we see blatant honesty, we’re surprised? I passed this sign in front of a BBQ restaurant near Dahlonega, Georgia last week and was immediately a fan of the restaurant—even before I ate the food. After eating it, I’m really a fan. I love the fact that this restaurant owner expects an award but is free to let the world know that they haven’t received one yet.
What happened to honesty? Why are lies and deceit so commonplace in our society that we give awards to those who are able to pull off the biggest lies (the Pinocchio Awards)? God says, “The Lord detest lying lips, but He delights in those who tell the truth” (Proverbs 12:22). “Detest” is a strong word. In my book, Wisdom Speaks: Life Lessons from Proverbs, I wrote a section about this word as it relates to honesty:
To say that something is an abominationto the Lord is to say that an act is detestable to God. It is a strong statement pointing to something as disgusting or repugnant. We might say that something makes us sickto our stomachs. It is interesting to scan through the pages of Scripture to note what God says is an abomination. If we have never struggled with homosexuality, we may put that at the top of the list because it is mentioned several times. For starters, God doesn’t have a top-of-the-list category. Any sexual sin is an abomination to God.
Sexual sin is not the only disgusting act to our Creator. God gives us a list of other sins that He considers abominable:
There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him. Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that devises wicked plans feet that run rapidly to evil. A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.—Proverbs 6:16-19
Notice that a lying tongue made it to number two on the list of abominable deeds. Isn’t that interesting? Someone lies to us about a political matter, and we shake our heads and give him four Pinocchios. God, on the other hand, sees it as an abomination. We make light of something that God obviously deems as quite serious.
We’re smack in the middle of a political season, and we’re going to be inundated with false statements and people being accused of making false statements. It’s easy for us to be critical of those politicians. The fact is, however, that we can’t change politicians, but we can change ourselves. Regardless of how many Pinocchios someone might get from a speech next week or next month, we should opt for honesty.
Proverbs also tells us that righteous lips are a delight and the integrity of the upright will guide them. Proverbs 10:9 says, “He who walks in integrity walks securely.” As we anticipate hateful words and falsehoods that are sure to be a part of the next election cycle, let’s commit ourselves to walk securely and be a delight because we delight in telling the truth.
I spent a few days fishing this week with my father and brothers in Alaska. What an unbelievably beautiful place! Upon getting back to our vacation rental after the second day of fishing, I noticed that my face was red. Why wouldn’t it be red? I’d spent two days in the sun and strong winds. I had covered my head and ears but failed to put sunscreen on my face. Naturally, I didn’t realize my error until after two days of neglect. Sunburn or windburn is a slow process. We don’t realize it’s happening until after the damage is done.
We’re seeing a slow burn take place in our country. We’re all still shocked and heartbroken that someone could go into a Walmart in El Paso or to an entertainment district in Dayton to kill people. We mourn the loss of at least thirty-one people in this insanity and many more are suffering from wounds. During the same weekend, fifty-three people were shot in Chicago, seven killed. Who knows how many other atrocities happened last weekend?
I’m also stunned at the stupidity and selfishness of politicians. It’s shocking to see political candidates immediately use these events in an attempt to gain an edge in the election. It’s mind blowing to hear news reporters lay the blame for this shooting on the President. We’re also hearing that it’s the fault of the NRA. Really? Can these political leaders and news reporters not recognize the slow burn of a nation who has neglected the importance of fearing God and strengthening families?
As the fabric of our society comes apart, we should go backward in our history and find the things that have been washing away our foundation. We kicked God out of the schools in the 60’s. We devalued life with the passage of Roe vs. Wade in the 70’s. In the 80’s, we experienced continued growth in greed, rampant narcissism, increase in divorces and single-parent homes, and the promotion of free and safe sex. I could go on and on about the growth of immorality at every level, the continued destabilization of the home, the normalization of same-sex marriages, and the total disregard for honesty and truth. We removed the Bible from our public places, mocked prayer and the truth of Scripture, and openly persecute Christians for demonstrating their faith. The spiritual decline in our nation is significant.
Our decline has been slow and gradual. When immorality becomes a civil right and righteousness can no longer be defined by a society that has no moral bearing, our country is in trouble. We really can’t even call something evil because our society has determined that all truth is relative. Evil and moral relativity cannot coexist.Should we be surprised at mass shootings? Can our country back away from the edge of the abyss?
The problem is that immorality has been accepted, and broken has become the new normal. The only thing that can save us is a sweeping, spiritual revival. Immorality, broken governmental systems, and unstable families do not naturally reverse themselves. God can restore America, but only God can do it. Pray for America. Pray for your family. Pray for our leaders. Pray for our churches. Pray for God to help you strengthen your own home and order your own steps. Only God is a healer, and only God can heal broken people.
I preached the sixth message today in a seven-sermon-series on the seven I Am statements of Jesus in John (You can hear them on our church website, though today’s probably won’t be up until maybe Wednesday: http://www.sonrisebaptist.org/sermon-archive/) . Today’s focal passage was John 14:6: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
If you have studied the “I Am” passages of John, you know that the Greek text used for each statement is an emphatic, exclusive statement. To say otherwise is to ignore the Greek language and the construction of the text. You should translate any of these “I Am” passages as emphatic: “I myself am.” It’s as if Jesus was saying in John 6:35, for example, “I am and only I am the bread of life.” In John 14:6, Jesus underscored the exclusivity of the Gospel and the way to salvation with his follow-up statement as well: “No one comes to the Father but through me.” The two little Greek words translated as “but” are the two words “if not.” That part of the verse could be translated, “No one comes to the Father if not through me.”
I’ve had conversations with some people lately who struggle with an exclusive Gospel. In other words, they think Christians are narrow, bigoted, and arrogant for saying that salvation or eternal life is only possible through Jesus. Much of the world wants to embrace a universal message of salvation that says, “All roads lead to God. It doesn’t really matter which road you choose.” Do all roads really lead to God?
Christianity says that Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. Islam says that Jesus didn’t die for the sins of the world, but rather, someone died in his place. Both positions can’t be true. Either Christianity or Islam is right, not both. You see, truth by definition is exclusive.
Christians are criticized for being exclusive, but if you think about it, if someone says the Bible is false, he is making an exclusive statement. He is saying that he is right and everyone who believes the Bible is wrong. For example, Hindus teach we are reincarnated after we die. Therefore, anyone who believes in heaven or hell is wrong. That position makes Hinduism exclusive. Every time you open your mouth to say what you believe, you are being exclusive. Every time you say something is “true,” it means everything opposed to what you just said is false. You are being exclusive.
I came across an article written by Dr. Steve McSwain (I hesitate to offer the link because it’s pure heresy, but here it is: https://bit.ly/2SvOb5A). I don’t know who Steve McSwain is, and I have no clue what field of study gave him a doctorate, but it’s clear that his method of Bible study is flawed, and he approaches the truth of Scripture from an agenda-laden position. His byline says he’s a “counselor to congregations” and a “spiritual teacher.” I’m not sure what spirit motivates his teaching, but it’s not God’s Spirit.
Here’s part of his reflective comments on John 14:6 and the exclusivity of the Gospel:
Jesus said “I am the way…no one comes to God but through me” (John 14:6). But what does that really mean?…Today, I realize that what Jesus was really saying is this: “I am the way,” as in, “I know the way.” “I’ve discovered it” which, by implication means, “you can, too.” Elsewhere, he put it like this: “I and the Father are one” and he prayed that we would discover the same as well (John 17). Which is precisely why he said continually, “Follow me.” In other words, it’s as if Jesus was saying, “If you believe anything, believe not WORDS but the WAY to Life itself. My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal. In fact, you cannot separate the way to God from God herself. The way to God IS God.”
For starters, Mr. McSwain (as if he’s going to read this blog), Jesus did NOT say “I know the way.” You can’t change Scripture. You can’t make it say something you want it to say or prefer it to say or something that’s more politically correct in our culture. Jesus said, “I myself am the way. No one comes to the Father if not through me.” No matter how you analyze that passage, if you are honest with yourself and use proper biblical interpretation, Jesus said He is the ONLY way to salvation. It doesn’t really take too much analysis or interpretation to see the cold facts staring you in the face. You can call Jesus a liar if you want to, but you can’t say Jesus was really saying “I know the way.” He said, “I am THE way.”
If I made an exclusive statement, you could debate it and reject it. After all, who am I to make an exclusive statement about much of anything. I’m flawed and my perspective is limited. Jesus, however, claimed to be God. If Jesus is God, then He has every right to create a salvation plan that offers only one path: Himself.Mr. McSwain said, “My way, like many other ways, will guide you into the Eternal.” My first thought was that this statement is also totally flawed. It is flawed from the way he was trying to project it, but in the end, he’s actually right. Jesus’ way will lead to eternal life. The “many other ways” he’s writing about will also lead into the eternal, eternal damnation. I didn’t say that. Jesus did.
I’m very disturbed. Last Thursday I watched part of the Judge Kavanaugh/Dr. Christine Ford hearing, and the more I watched, the angrier and more discouraged I became. Over the last few years, I’ve watched the soul of America unraveling, and I’m concerned that we’re getting close to the point of no return. Regardless of your political persuasion, I hope that you share my concern. This concern is not as much about Kavanaugh, Ford, Trump, or Feinstein as it is about the not so slow deterioration of honesty, virtue, righteousness, and integrity. The fact that in order to confirm or not confirm a Supreme Court justice we have to stoop to such shameful measures and tactics is truly a disgrace to the nation and offers a peek into the rotting condition of our national soul. We have come to a place where ideology is more important than truth and the means seem totally justified regardless of the end, as long as the end supports one’s political or philosophical purposes.
Here’s an opinion statement: I don’t think the uproar over Kavanaugh is as much about the judge or even the position as it is about philosophy or even theology. Politicians on all sides have agendas, and it seems that people are willing to go to any extreme to accomplish those agendas. If there is something deeply wrong with Kavanaugh’s character, then he needs to be disqualified. If not, then he needs to be confirmed. I personally think the battle is mainly over issues like abortion and same-sex marriages. I do not believe that abortion or same-sex marriage are political issues. They are spiritual issues. I don’t know Kavanaugh and therefore I don’t know if he is a Christian. However, I feel as if a great spiritual battle between the heavenlies is being waged before our eyes. Over the years, we have passed some laws that blatantly contradict the teaching of Scripture. Whether Kavanaugh should be on the court or not is to be seen, but I think the real battle is for the soul of America.
I don’t see myself as a Democrat or Republican. I vote for the person who best represents the truth of God’s Word. I agree strongly with Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace for any people.” Because righteousness is defined by laws, and the Supreme Court is the final law of our land, we should not be surprised to see the intensity of the battle for who will control this court. Because unrighteousness destroys a nation, I believe the hosts of hell are lined up trying to figure out how to lead our country farther away from the truth upon which this country was built. If you believe the Word of God, then I encourage you to pray for our political leaders that they will pass laws and our judicial leaders that they will uphold laws and the Constitution in such a way that we as a people are walking in righteousness. This means we should pray for God’s intervention and leadership, and we should vote to put people in office who will help us to be a righteous people. We have a lot at stake. If we slide far enough down the slippery slope of unrighteousness and disobedience, it will be very difficult for us to come back.
Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted yesterday, “Some idiot in my home state broke all 10 commandments at the same time.” His tweet referenced an incident that happened at the Capital in Little Rock, Arkansas. A man drove his truck into the newly erected Ten Commandments monument, breaking it into pieces. The man posted a video on Facebook that he was going to destroy the monument because it was a violation of the separation of church and state. He then streamed the criminal act live on Facebook as his 2016 Dodge Dart raced across Capital grounds, and as he crashed into the monument, he shouted, “Freedom.”
Ignoring the fact that the man has to be deranged to blatantly break the law and ram a nearly brand new car into a state monument, two things strike me as interesting about this incident. First, the man obviously doesn’t understand the whole concept of separation of church and state. I’ll write in more detail about that in my next blog, but the whole issue was initially discussed out of a desire to protect the church from the state, not the state from the church.
The second incongruity is that the man shouted the word “freedom” as he hit the monument. Why did he shout that word? Does he really think that we are free without God’s law? The fact is that we are free because of God’s law. It’s obvious that the hoodlum doesn’t realize that one reason we enjoy the freedoms we have in our country is that our Founding Fathers built our great nation on the Law of God. The Ten Commandments and the Word of God provide for us the moral code and foundation of our nation that is woven into the fabric of our country. This guy has no regard for law, or otherwise, he never would have driven his car across the Capital grounds. For some reason, he thinks that our society would be better if everyone could just create their own system of law. In other words, if our government passes a law that we don’t like, we have the right and privilege of disobeying it. Really? That’s called anarchy! The unstable man streamed his act of disrespect to the law because he thinks it made him out to be a hero, but in truth, it showed him to be a fool. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
The third largest school district in the country has spoken. USA Today reported Tuesday that the “Chicago Public Schools said its students, teachers and staff could use whichever restroom matches their gender identity.” When I was a kid, gender identity had to do with anatomy. Today, gender identity is determined by how an individual feels at the moment. If a teenage boy decides that he is a girl, then he showers and changes clothes in the girls’ locker room. Really? Have people lost their minds? Is everyone okay with a man going into the girls’ locker room at the local gym and changing clothes? Can’t people see where this is going to lead? We have enough perverted and twisted human beings in our nation today doing the unspeakable. Why would we want to feed their perversion with ridiculous laws? Politicians in North Carolina took a stand against this absurdity by passing a law requiring transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate. A representative from the Department of Justice has given North Carolina notice that they are in violation of the Civil Rights Act and will be required to face the consequences if they do not remedy the violation by Monday.
Four years ago, I began writing my book Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, and I wrote of how our nation would continue its slide into the moral abyss. I stated, “While considering the national slide into immorality and the disdain with which people treat the truths of scripture, unrighteousness will be the new normal in a world heading toward Armageddon.” Although I addressed this move toward immorality, I am still stunned at the stupidity of our political leaders. You would have had a difficult time convincing me three or four years ago that our Federal Government would be threatening a state with consequences if they did not allow men to use the women’s locker room or women to shower with men after a morning workout at the local gym. This is simply an indication of the moral blindness of our secular culture. We should not be surprised by this. Second Corinthians 4:4 reminds us that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving.” This is the only explanation for the direction our nation is going. Many of our political leaders are blinded to truth and to the consequences of an immoral nation.
I believe that our nation is already under the judgment of God. As you read through the Old Testament, you see story after story of God bringing judgment on a nation or on an individual. While God would pass judgment, it would often take years for the people to realize that judgment had come. In 1 Samuel 15:23, God told King Saul, “He has also rejected you from being king.” Saul continued to serve as the King for another fifteen years before he was ultimately killed in battle. Whenever we stepped out from under God’s umbrella of protection and blessing by passing laws that removed prayer from school, made it legal to murder unborn babies, and sanctified marriage between two people of the same sex, we opened the door up to all manner of consequences. When immoral and self-absorbed people go to the polls, they elect people who continue their agenda of immorality. Scripture says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” The god of America is no longer the God of the Bible. We have become our own gods who simply live for our pleasure. God cannot bless the nation we have become.
Four years ago, I predicted that the 2016 presidential race would be won by a person who would continue leading us down a path toward immorality. I said that the new president would continue an anti-Semitic policy that would ultimately lead Israel to stand alone against Russia and a 5-nation coalition (Ezekiel 38-39). As badly as I want to see a strong conservative in the White House, the Bible says that society will continue a downward slide until Christ’s return. I would love to see a revival and a return to morality in our nation, however, I do not believe it is going to happen. I think that the church must learn how to stand firm against the “wiles of the devil.” We must realize that we are in a spiritual battle and do everything we can to share our faith with those who will listen. Put on your spiritual armor daily. Prepare to engage our culture with God’s truth and shine your light into a world that is growing increasingly dark. If you have not read Immovable: Standing Firm in the Last Days, I encourage you to read it. If you are unable to purchase it right now, contact me and I’ll send you a digital copy for free. I share important truths in this book that will help you prepare to stand firm in the days to come.
We know where all of this is leading, and it will eventually be glorious for followers of Christ. Do not lose heart. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Our redemption is drawing near.
“I’ll make America great again.” We’ve heard that a lot over the last months of the presidential campaign from a number of candidates. I think we all realize the serious place we are in as a nation, and many of us believe that this election may be our last hope to turn around. I also believe that we all want America to be great again. There is a misnomer, however, in the midst of all of the campaign rhetoric. God is the only person who can make America great again. I fully believe that the reason America was great in the past is because America had a greater commitment to following God and His Word. We have now banned God from public places, He’s no longer welcome in our public school system, His Word is openly violated as our nation’s leaders have passed laws that diametrically oppose the teaching of Scripture, Christians are scorned, and God’s truth is belittled. Should we be surprised that America has lost her luster? The Bible is clear: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12). I believe that many Americans are tired of political correctness and dishonest politicians. We long for a leader who is principle centered, tough against terrorism, and strong in the face of financial challenges. We will all be going to the polls soon to vote in primaries across our land and ultimately to elect a president. While a strong military is needed and a stable economy is essential, the Bible is clear about the source of a nation’s greatness: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).
We can listen to politicians as they try to convince us that they are the best candidate. I would encourage us to look at their message and consider their past positions. We need leaders who will not lead our nation away from the Lord. America is only great when we declare the greatness of Almighty God and surrender to His sovereign rule.
I would like to share a few thoughts in response to comments I’ve had related to my last post. Before reading this, would you consider this question? Is it possible to disagree with what someone does without hating that person? If you have children, then you have no alternative but to say “yes, it’s possible.” I disagree with homosexuality and same-sex unions, but that does not mean that I hate the homosexual. God disagrees with my sin, but that does not mean that He hates me. I’m grateful for that.
I just watched an interview with Kim Davis, county clerk from Grayson Kentucky. You may remember that Mrs. Davis refused to sign marriage licenses for same-sex unions and was put in jail for six days. The problem this clerk faced was that the new law legalizing same-sex unions means that gay couples have to get a marriage license. In Kentucky, the law requires the name of the county clerk to be on the bottom of the document. Even if someone else issues the license, her name would still be on the document. She started asking for her name to be removed from the document this past January, but no one would accommodate her request. It seems that Mrs. Davis had three options. Option #1: She could grant the marriage licenses to same-sex couples with her name on the license thereby disregarding her conviction that the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin. Option #2: Refuse to grant a license to same-sex couples. Option #3: Resign her position as county clerk. The option of having someone else give the licenses does not remove her name from the document, therefore, Mrs. Davis feels that she is condoning sin and disregarding the Bible.
I don’t know Kim Davis, and I don’t know every detail about this particular issue. While there are several issues to be considered, one question has to do with what should a Christian do if the U.S. government passes a law that stands contrary to the Bible. Should we obey the law? While the law regarding same-sex unions does not personally affect most people, it does affect Kim Davis. It will also affect many other businesses and ministers who are involved with weddings. Just ask the owners of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. They were sued because they declined the business of a gay couple because the shop owners said it conflicted with their religious beliefs. Masterpiece Cakeshop lost the lawsuit.
I have a problem on at least two levels. I obviously disagree with redefining the word marriage to include same-sex unions. That would be like us passing a law saying that a dog is a horse. Here are two additional things to be considered. First, requiring Christians to act contrary to their religious convictions stands in contrast to the first amendment to our Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” Do you think requiring a Christian to disobey the Bible is prohibiting the free exercise of Christianity? Do you think that causing a Christian to have to resign from her job in order to keep from compromising her faith is prohibiting the free exercise of Christianity? If Mrs. Davis had taken her job after the law was passed, then there might be some argument against her position. I would not want my name on a marriage license for same-sex unions either. Would you? This is a Constitutional issue.
The second level is personal. While I am protected by the Constitution, I am not protected by our national laws (which I believe stand in contrast to our Constitution). As the law stands now, my church is required to allow a same-sex union to take place in our building. I could be sued if I do not accommodate the wishes of a same-sex couple who want me to be the officiating minister. Because I am not an employee of the courts, I assume I would not be put in jail for refusing to marry a same-sex couple, but I could be sued. Is this the kind of country our Founding Fathers envisioned? Do you really want our country to force churches and pastors to disobey the Bible or to condone biblical disobedience? What are U.S. citizens supposed to do when a law is passed that conflicts with their biblical convictions and moral consciences? I know the importance of law. What we have in this case is the conflict between two laws: God’s vs. U.S. I do not want to live in a country without laws. The question has to do with what is the basis of law. Because this blog is getting quite long, I will address this issue at another time.
I’m grateful that in the midst of all of this, God loves us regardless of which side we fall on. I am grateful that Jesus died for all of sin and offers everyone an opportunity for forgiveness and eternal life. To say that God hates homosexuals would be to ignore the Bible: “For God so loved the world…” If Christians hate homosexuals, this hatred is sin and does not honor God. At the same time, Christians are not to condone sin either. We obviously stand at a precarious crossroad.